Monday, June 04, 2007

review: I am Utterly Unique

(Much though I like this book, after a particularly rough weekend, I find myself inevitably writing parodies: "I am Fiercely Freaky when Frustrated" and "I am Never invited Near by the Normal Neighbor kids.")

I Am Utterly Unique by Elaine Marie Larson. Illustrated by Vivian Strand. Autism Asperger Publishing, 2006 (1-931282-89-7)

I'm usually annoyed by books that attempt to sum up personality traits associated with autism, but this book, designed to "celebrate the strengths of children with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism," does it with so much affection and care, I have to like it. Using an alphabet format--in itself an excellent choice for ASD kids, many of whom are extremely attracted to letters and numbers--the book lists 26 positive traits often found in HFA children, from "I am an Animal lover" to the unfortunate Z cop-out "I love piZZa and puZZles." (An engaging illustration of a jigsaw pizza helps redeem this one.) In addition to generally positive traits like "I am a Happy Helper," the book pinpoints some of the more fascinating aspects of the typical HFA brain, like "I am a Detail Detective," "I have Fantastic Focus," "I have a Vivid Vocabulary" and "I have an XXL (eXtra, eXtra large memory.)" Some of these concepts must have been a challenge for the illustrator, who rose well to the occasion, depicting simple, almost stick-figure kids expressing the ideas through one often goofy detail: "I have an original outlook" shows a brightly smiling child wearing psychedelic rainbow striped sunglasses. Many of the kids illustrated throughout the book are shown again on the page for U, "I am Utterly Unique," a reminder that though all of them have HFA, they are all unique beings. And of course, not every child with HFA will find him or herself in every one of these pages, which can be a good start to some conversation about similarities and differences, even in people with the same diagnosis.

In addition to the enormous benefit of showing HFA kids a too rare, positive vision of themselves in a book, I Am Utterly Unique has value for showing that the stereotypes of these children are often quite off base: "I have enormous enthusiasm," for example, is certainly true of my own autistic son, and not something I would ever have expected before becoming his mom. This is overall a terrific book for sharing with a young child with HFA or Asperger Syndrome, or with siblings or classmates who could use more insight into what HFA is like. (3-9)

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Blogger Elaine Magliaro bligged...


Thanks so much for this review. I think I may buy a copy or two.

6/04/2007 4:34 PM  

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